May 12, 2011

New course designed to ‘unsettle’ VUSM students

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Quentin Eichbaum, M.D., Ph.D., MPH, is the new assistant dean for Program Development at the School of Medicine. (photo by Joe Howell)

New course designed to ‘unsettle’ VUSM students

The new assistant dean for Program Development at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is designing a novel course that he says will both stimulate and “unsettle” medical students and help them deal with the increasing complexities of medicine.

Quentin Eichbaum, M.D., Ph.D., MPH, associate professor of Medical Education and Administration and associate professor of Pathology, designed the colloquium, a first-year requirement beginning in this fall.

Eichbaum said the goal is to help medical students reflect on what they are learning in a new way that will expand their thinking and lay more sustainable foundations for empathy, leadership and professionalism.

“There is a rapidly emerging science of cognition and learning driven largely by intriguing discoveries in neuroscience, which is becoming the meeting ground between the sciences and humanities,” Eichbaum said. “Mindfulness and taking time to reflect are also critical to eliciting and sustaining empathy.

“However, the colloquium is not just ponderously intellectual but entails highly energizing discussions. I have witnessed students who come to a colloquium beaten down and tired after a week in class and clinics. But after this two-hour encounter, they are fired up and engaging in vigorous debate,” Eichbaum said.

The medical student body will divide into its four advisory colleges for the coursework, with each colloquium class facilitated by the college mentors.

The course will begin with an examination of meta/neurocognition as a basis for preparing students to engage in discussions of later topics, including principles of medical ethics, health care policy, and the complexities of empathy and the patient-doctor relationship.

“We are so fortunate to have Quentin join us,” said Bonnie Miller, M.D., senior associate dean for Health Sciences Education at the School of Medicine.

“He has already played a critical role in helping us enhance the role of advisory colleges and the college mentors. Having served in this role at both Harvard Medical School and the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine (Texas Tech University Health Sciences), he brings experience and a fresh perspective to these efforts.”

Eichbaum will also serve as a member of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health and chair of the newly established Global Health Education Advisory Committee.

Eichbaum earned his M.D. at Harvard Medical School, and his Master of Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. He received a Ph.D. in Medical Biochemistry and Immunology at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa. He also holds a Master of Fine Arts and a law degree.